2015 Tour de France
The 102nd edition of the Tour de France starts today and we are hopefully going to be in for a real treat. Below I run through my thoughts on the four favourites for the race.
Quintana is a great climber full of talent, that much was obvious in 2010 when took Avenir and since then he's only enhanced his reputation with week-long race wins, and a good if opportunistic victory at the Giro. He's obviously mentally as well as physically strong as we've seen him win from the start of his time in Europe (a natural curve to his career) But the first week will be really difficult for him and his team. He will lose time on the cobbled ride and it's possible he will do so also on the previous stage as the finish doesn't suit him at all. He also has an asset/enemy on his team in the shape of Valverde who will ride for himself in the first week here, his victory at the Spanish nationals was about more than the jersey. I think Quintana will improve as the race goes on, but does he have it in him to win, I’m not so sure.
Contador rode within himself at the Giro where he wasn't at the peak of his form, he never looked out of control, not even on the Finestre stage. Contador is another who will dread the stage to Cambrai. I expect his team to spend a lot of the first week on the front setting tempo and contrary to opinion I think he'll be fine for the TTT as I don't see him losing a large chunk of time on this stage. I do think his team is a lot weaker than he’d like to have. Basso's inclusion is baffling, his Giro was so poor. I expect to see Contador isolated early on in the mountains with Maika and Rodgers being his only team mates and then not for long. What is his form like, at Sud he rode well but was unable to drop Quintana, after several attacks he stopped trying and won the race with a great descent. He will be hoping he can recover well and stay thereabouts for the last week and go onto take the win. This TDF for Contador isn't about the race so much as it's about the double with the Giro, is he strong enough to do it? It will be fascinating to find out
Froome rolls up here with a very strong team, good for the first difficult week and strong in the mountains. In Porte, Froome definitely has the strongest lieutenant of all the favourites and along with Thomas, Poels, König and Kennaugh, this is a good level of rider support in the mountains. If he turns up here in full on Froome mode this could be a difficult tour for the other GT contenders. He’s had an up and down season, a win at the Ruta followed by a poor ride at the Catalunya, which was followed by a crash at F-W and then a decent, if not dominating, victory at the the Dauphine. His most difficult period I feel will be that opening week as he's not the best bike handler and this penchant for staring at his stem is strange. The paved stage is what could make or break his Tour, however, if he makes it out of that first week unscathed I make him the favourite to tale the overall classification.
Nibali is a rider who’s in his own category. Just below the three above and miles ahead of those below. It would great to see such a stylish rider take a win here. His racing this year has been very similar to last year's. Contrary to people's views riders aren't meant to be able to race at every race, what people see as "cracking" is a rider using his data to train within his given parameters at that time. Now I do think he was lucky that the two main contenders crashed out last year. That said, he'd already taken the race by the scruff and imposed himself upon it at the Sheffield stage. Therefore he was a legitimate champion in my eyes who won with a panache that others can only dream about. This year his team look strong, he will have the assistance in the mountains of Scarponi, Fuglsang, Kangert and Taaramae at his side. The problem for him is he's a weaker climber and also weaker against the clock which although shouldn’t be too much of a problem here it could still lose him some vital time. What will be an advantage is his bike handling. I expect his team to set a fierce pace on the cobbles and with the addition of last year’s winner of the cobbled section he'll take time over the other GC riders here. As long as the main contenders above stay injury free I think he may do well to take a place on the podium.
Froome is my favourite for this year’s edition. Contador with the Giro in his legs, Quintana not quite ready and Nibali just not good enough makes Froome the stand out choice for the GC overall.
The Copa America final takes place tonight with Argentina looking to win it for the first time since 1993 and Chile having never won it.
Argentina’s tournament sparked into life in the semi final against Paraguay with a 6-1 win. Amazingly Messi wasn’t on the score sheet but he still terrorised Paraguay the entire night and had three assists. Prior to the semi final however, they had only scored four goals in four games.
Chile have quietly gone about their business in an impressive fashion and have scored plenty of goals in the process. However, their talisman Alexis Sanchez has had a long season with Arsenal and has started to look absolutely shattered. Does he have one more star performance in him?
Argentina are very strong defensively and this may be the difference. I think the final will be a tight cagey affair and I am going with Argentina to win a low scoring game.
Argentina are best price 23/20 to win the match and I think this is a reasonable value bet.
Coral again have a fantastic offer to new account holders of Argentina 6/1 to lift the trophy (£5 max bet). Just with the two Coral offers mentioned in this post you could make yourself an easy £55 this weekend!
Chris Froome Tour de France winner - 3 points @ 2/1
Froome to win the yellow jersey and Sagan to win the green jersey - 1 point @ 7/2
Tony Martin to win stage one - 2 points @ evens